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FLEXO Magazine : Sustainable EOY 2009
14 Sustainable FLEXO END OF YEAR 2009 www.flexomag.com Particularly for applications with stringent quality stan- dards, the thermal technology may show additional problems. In the case of plates with a thickness of .045in., which are virtually regarded as standard in the high-quality flexographic printing sector, there is an increased risk of dimensional transformation, as the high process temperatures affect the stability of the carrier foil. In contrast to this, the solvent-based technology shows no sign of limitations. Even for conventional plates, as well as for the entire range of plate thicknesses, stringent quality standards can be achieved with a high level of reliability. RECYCLING: A KEY FACTOR In solvent processing of flexo printing plates, solvent recy- cling is a matter-of-course for users, even if only from an eco- nomical perspective. An average of 87.5 percent of the solvent is recycled. If the solvent is distilled by external specialized companies, a recycling rate of 95 percent is often achieved. This value can also be reached by large trade houses, which tend to operate modern distillation systems in-house. Without solvent recycling, the environmental impact of plate production would be quite high. Due to the substantial recla- mation rate, the traditional processing method is the better option in principle, when compared with the thermal technol- ogy (see Figure 1). This is valid even when the widely used polyamide web material is not used, and a new polyester web is applied to the thermal processor. This new web generation has been launched with the aim of lowering the high CO2- equivalent contribution of the polyamide web. SIMPLE ACTIONS, HIGH IMPACT If the flexographic industry wants to achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions for plate processing, the optimization of exist- ing processes will play a significant role. There is great po- tential to make noticeable improvements to the environmental balance with simple measures. In contrast, the conversion to a new technology can only prove ecologically advantageous under highly specific conditions. All in all, users are faring well with their traditional platemaking process as all available formats and plate thicknesses can be used for solvent washout of flexographic printing plates; furthermore, the solvent technology is suitable for all areas of application. This is not only highly advantageous in terms of ecology and quality but is also significantly cost-effective. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This article was submitted by Flint Group Flexographic Products. COMPARISON FIGURE FOR ECO-EFFICIENCY The Global Warming Potential (GWP) is a measure of how the earth's atmosphere is warming through a substance or a specific process based on the "standard greenhouse gas," CO2. GWP has the CO2-equivalent (CO2eq) unit of measure--if applicable, per reference variable, i.e. CO2-equivalent gram per square meter.